HC Deb 31 May 1960 vol 624 cc1160-1
21. Mr. M. Stewart

asked the Minister of Housing and Local Government and Minister for Welsh Affairs whether it is still the policy of Her Majesty's Government, as declared in the White Paper on Local Government Finance, Command Paper No. 209, 1957, to reduce the proportion of grants to rates, in local government expenditure, below that of 6 to 5.

Mr. H. Brooke

What the White Paper said was that it is most important to reduce the dependence of local government on Exchequer grants if it can possibly be done. That must be true; but the context was the Government's decision to make some small reduction in the grants following the increased product of rates due to re-rating of industry to 50 per cent.

Mr. Stewart

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that he has not quoted the White Paper quite correctly? It mentions a proportion of 6 to 5 and then says that it is most important to reduce this dependence of local authorities on Government Exchequer grants. In that context "this dependence" means, presumably, the dependence to the extent of a 6 to 5 proportion. I am asking the Minister whether it is the policy of the Government to reduce that proportion?

Mr. Brooke

No, Sir. The hon. Member is reading rather too much into this. Paragraphs 26 to 29 of the White Paper must be read together. There was at that time a proposal to increase the degree of rating of industry and it afforded an opportunity to diminish the dependence of local authorities on Exchequer grants. Surely it is desirable that, as far as possible, local authorities should raise their own revenue.

Mr. Stewart

May we get it clear that this paragraph 26 does not mean what it says? Will the Minister answer this question categorically? Is it the policy of the Government to reduce the proportion of grants to rates below that of 6 to 5 calculated at the time of the White Paper?

Mr. Brooke

The White Paper means exactly what it says. There is nothing sacred about the proportion of 6 to 5. If the hon. Member is insinuating that the Exchequer is likely to do less than its share in support of local revenues, he is wrong.

Several Hon. Members rose

Mr. Speaker

Order. The discussion is getting rather wide for Question Time. We must get on.